After a month of work on the new website and a marathon of one-on-one meetings with OFW designers, I'm finally having a chance to reflect on one of my favorite parts of Omaha Fashion Week - seeing participants go on to the next step in their careers.  This happens in all sorts of ways.  They get jobs, investors, learn a new skill, build a website, get their brand going, get accepted into new programs...and earn their diplomas. We've had a bumper crop of graduates this May.  I'd like to take a moment to recognize a few of them for their great accomplishments and contributions to OFW:

Annie Kawamoto, Production Assistant:

Annie and I have been working together for three years.  I hired her when I was marketing director at Creighton University College of Business and took her with me when I transitioned to producer of OFW.  She and I had a huge learning curve last summer and she was instrumental in making OFW 2011 a success.  She carefully balanced a double major in marketing and finance, held down multiple leadership positions in student organizations and helped me produce OFW.  We couldn't have done it without her.  Her efforts certainly didn't go unnoticed at Creighton, as she received awards for Marketing Student of the Year and Entrepreneurship Student of the Year to go along with her diploma.  Now Annie is employed as a financial advisor for Heritage Financial Services and is spending her summer studying for a series of finance certification tests.  I know...from fashion to finance?  The great thing about Annie is that she has an amazing brain.  No matter what she puts her mind to, she will be able to make a significant contribution.  Fortunately, OFW won't lose her forever because she's already promised to come back to volunteer during show week in August!  When you see her, be sure to congratulate her.

Jane Round, OFW Designer:

Jane has been designing for OFW since 2009.  She is known for the quality of her construction...and for her gorgeous red hair!  She graduated from Millard North High School this May and will go on to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.  Here's an excerpt from a letter of recommendation I wrote for her college applications:

...she is someone I can count on to provide great insight and feedback on what Omaha Fashion Week can do to improve the show for audience members and the designer community. I’m always impressed by the courage and clarity she demonstrates in voicing her opinions.

Jane's leadership and communication skills far surpass her age.  She reminds me of how important it is to strive for excellence in everything.  We can't wait to see what she'll do next!

Maximillian Suiter, OFW Designer:

Max produced his first collection for OFW last August and quickly became a star!  His collection of special occasion dresses left the audience wanting more.  Max graduated from Brownell Talbot last week and has been accepted into a design program at Washington University in St. Louis.  Here's an excerpt from a letter of recommendation I wrote for Max:

As a relatively young (31) entrepreneur myself, I can’t say enough about how important it is to have a good team and good mentors. Wise people are humble enough to understand the limits of their ability – and courageous enough to bring in the best people they can find to shore up those limits. Max does just that. He demonstrates leadership, humility, courage and creative vision. All of those qualities have allowed him to attract and retain the team and mentors he needs to be successful in business and life.

Max's diligence and leadership ability will take him anywhere he wants to go in life. We can't wait to see his next collection grace the OFW runway this August.  Come watch him shine on Thursday, August 23 during our evening wear set.

Annie, Jane and Max are just a few of many people involved with OFW who are achieving significant milestones this year.  I wish I could list everyone who is moving on to the next level in their careers - my Facebook Feed is full of photos from OFW models, volunteers and fans who were graduating this May.  To all of you, a HUGE congratulations from Omaha Fashion Week.  We hope to see you near a runway again soon!